FOOTBALL: The spiritual home of football in the Clarence Valley, Rushforth Park, is set for a major facelift thanks in part to a $600,000 State Government grant.

And according to Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, who secured the majority of the funding through the Stronger Country Communities Fund, it is a facelift well overdue.

"Rushforth Park is one of the most used sporting grounds in the Clarence Valley and it has not had an upgrade in years," he said.

"My own kids used to play on this field 25 years ago and it still looks the same as it did back then.

"It needs an upgrade, it needs a new canteen, it needs new change rooms, it needs new lights and it is going to get all that with this funding boost."

Funding for the third bank of lights at the field was secured by Grafton United Football Club through the Asian Cup Legacy Fund which aims to invest funds back into grassroots football.

Gulaptis said the aim of the funding was to attract more junior footballers to the game through providing "first-class facilities".

"It's about participation. It is about getting our kids into sport," he said. "We have (great facilities) in the major cities like Sydney and it's about time we had them in the regions as well."

While Rushforth Park was the major benefactor of more than $1.8million in funding announced by Gulaptis yesterday, there will also be funding allocated to other sporting and cultural institutions in the Valley.

The Ngayundi Yamba Sports Complex received $370,000 for car park sealing and field upgrade, Ellem Oval received $295,000 for irrigation and other upgrades, Ken Leeson Oval at Iluka received $250,000 for a major upgrade and Yamba Museum was granted $250,000 for a precinct enhancement.

One group who will benefit from the upgrades at Rushforth Park is the Grafton Supa Oldies Soccer, who had secured a grant for a second bank of lights at the complex only last year.

It will now give the organisation, which regularly hosts upwards of 20 teams for its summer competition, more than three fields on which to host its twilight competition.

For Grafton SOS vice president Amy Morgan, the funding announcement was an emotional moment.

"I am actually a little bit overwhelmed," she said. "This for me is massive. I have been playing on these fields since I was 12 years old, this is pretty much my second home.

"To actually have this facility getting this upgrade, and to be involved in getting all of this to happen, is massive to me."



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